Dentistry - How It Can Improve Your Driving Horse
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Dentistry - How It Can Improve Your Driving Horse



A power point presentation put together for the James River Driving Club March 2012 meeting. Equine dentistry is an important aspect of keeping your carriage driving horse going comfortably.

A power point presentation put together for the James River Driving Club March 2012 meeting. Equine dentistry is an important aspect of keeping your carriage driving horse going comfortably.



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Dentistry - How It Can Improve Your Driving Horse Dentistry - How It Can Improve Your Driving Horse Presentation Transcript

  • Equine Dentistry { How It Can Improve Your Driving Horse
  • Basic Anatomy  Horses have Hypsodont teeth  Continuous eruption until expired  Average tooth length 4-5 inches  Visible crown much shorter than reserve crown  Younger horses = more toothHuman tooth vs. Equine tooth Young tooth vs. Old tooth
  • Terminology & PurposePosition Number Purpose Incisors 12 Prehension & Cutting Canines 0–4 DefensePremolars 12 Grinding of Foodstuffs•Wolf Teeth 0-4 Vestigial First Premolars Molars 12 Grinding of Foodstuffs
  • Eruption Process Foals born with 12 premolars & within days erupt first incisors Weanlings have 12 premolars & 12 incisors First permanent molar erupts 1 ½ years old  Second molar ~3 years old  Third molar ~4 years old  Molars do not shed caps, only erupt the permanent tooth  Therefore, the oldest tooth in a horse’s mouth is the First Molar (mid- arcade) Incisor caps shed at 2 ½, 3 ½, 4 ½ years old beginning with the central teeth to corner teeth in pairs (2 upper & 2 lower) Premolar caps shed at 2 ½, 3, and 3 ½ years old in pairs (2 upper & 2 lower) Wolf teeth usually erupt around 1 - 1 ½ years old  Some draft horses have erupted wolf teeth later Canine teeth erupt at 4 ½ years old All adult teeth should be visibly erupted by 5 years old!
  • Every Tooth has Its Number
  • So What Do All Those Numbers Mean? Young horses less than 5 years old starting their training will have a lot of activity going on in their mouths! This may cause discomfort for the horse - sharp enamel points, loose caps, erupting permanent teeth, cheek lacerations Many “behavior” issues such as resisting the bit, head tossing, bolting, etc. can be mistaken when in actuality it’s caused by pain/discomfort Young horses need more frequent dental care or floating due to new eruptions, deciduous caps and “softer” teeth that form enamel points quicker than mature horses
  • How Do I Know My Horse Has a Dental Issue?Abnormal Eating Habits Clinical Signs Behavioral Issues Not finishing feed  Maxillary or  Resistance to bridling Refusal to eat hay or mandibular swelling  Head shy grain  Malodorous nostrils or  Resisting the bit Slowly eating mouth  Head tossing Dropping feed  Nasal discharge  Bucking Quidding  Excessive salvation  Rearing Head tilting  Drainage  Difficulty bending Chewing with mouth  Choke  Gapping the mouth open  Colic  Refusal to collect “Squeaky” noises when  Undigested feed in chewing manure
  • Form to Function
  • Key Points Natural head position is altered in performance horses Dental malocclusions make it mechanically impossible for horses to maintain our desired head-set Individual horses have different pain thresholds Most hoses will NOT shows signs of dental abnormalities for long periods of time (months to years)You don’t know what you don’t see…
  • Case Example 12 year old Welsh Cob Stallion Champion Under Saddle & in Carriage Driving Previous farm had him “Floated” every 6 months w/o sedation New owner & Novice Driver requested dental exam “just to check” BEFORE AFTER After consulting with previous owner, they were aware of missing lower premolar… Pony was always slightly resistant turning to the right
  • Minis! Deserve Special Attention (but you already knew that). Same number of teeth as the larger breeds, but ¼ of the space! Relatively HIGHER incidence of dental abnormalities Overcrowding, abnormal eruption, retained caps most common problems Minis less than 5 years old or with preexisting dental problems should be examined every 6 months Virtually impossible to do a thorough exam or use dental equipment in such a small space without sedation
  •  “Chipmunk Cheeks” are usually the result of feed packing between the teeth & cheeks, not necessarily a tooth abscess Caused by crowding, missing & extra teeth. Or just a very small mouth!
  • My Horse Needs a Dentist, Now What? Every dental exam should consist of a full mouth speculum, light, and palpation of the entire oral cavity Most horses should have mild, standing sedation for dental procedures  Safer for the horse  Safer for the dental provider  Safer for the owner/handler  Less irritating for the horse  Less stress on the TMJ (temporal mandibular joint)  Less chance of soft tissue trauma to gums, lips, tongue  Provides better access to the rear of the mouth  Wolf tooth extraction should be done under sedation due to the tooth’s close proximity to the palatine artery  Your vet determines the amount of sedation based on the type of dental work, patient’s disposition & horse’s physical condition.
  • Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dentist Education  What courses have they completed specifically in Equine Dentistry?  Do they attend annual CE? Experience  How long have they been practicing equine dentistry?  How many dentals per year do they do? Equipment  Do they have the necessary equipment?  Do they use a disinfectant? Professional Conduct  Does each horse receive a detailed dental chart?  Do they take time to explain what they’re doing?
  • Conclusion Every horse should have annual dental care No eating or bitting issues do not equal no dental issues Increased levels of performance require the horse to carry its head in more unnatural positions Providing annual, preventative dental care will make your driving horse more comfortable, Addressing small dental problems before they get out of hand will cost you less in the long run Thorough dental care by an experienced provider may increase your horse’s longevity
  • Thank You! Amanda Compton is a registered Equine Dental Technician (EDT) with the VA Board of Veterinary Medicine and has worked in collaboration with vets since 2001. She also works part-time with VA Techs’ Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center’s nursing department.She has coordinated CE programs on equine dentistry for the EMC, Northern VA CommunityCollege & the American Assoc. of Veterinary Technicians. A graduate of WVU with a degree inAnimal & Veterinary Sciences, she has worked with horses all of her life. She began her love of driving while working at Ayrshire Farm from 2001-2006. Now she competes her Arabians inpleasure carriage driving and combined driving events. Amanda & her husband, Stephen, live in Middletown, VA. She can be reached through her website at or by phone 304-582-5885.